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17 January 2014

Don't just do something with digital technology

Yesterday I wanted to make a recipe everyone knows and most of us love: macaroni & cheese. I took my iPhone, found one of the many similar recipes and bought the necessary ingredients. After finishing the most difficult part, the bechamel sauce, I was very pleased with the result. Now imagine someone telling me ‘make a good, classic “mac & cheese” but you have to do something with chocolate as one of the ingredients’. Everyone, including myself, would declare that person a lunatic, because we all know that you can’t make a good mac & cheese using chocolate. Chocolate is an irrelevant ingredient when making a classic mac & cheese.

How ridicule this might sound, this exact situation is happening today in marketing. A few weeks ago, I attended a digital strategy training for people who have little or no experience with digital marketing. Before starting, everyone shortly presented themselves, telling why they were there and what they expected. Out of the attendants, 90% were marketers told by their boss to ‘do something with digital marketing because we have to follow the trend’. It should be mentioned that none of them said ‘because it fits with the target group, the company strategy…’.

This lack of a clear vision is alarming because of many reasons. The first is that it automatically forces us to think in terms of online & offline marketing. If we look at generation Z, people born in the late 90’s, we see that they don’t see online & offline separately (I’m sure everyone has seen a YouTube video in which a cute baby tries to enlarge a picture with its two little fingers as if it were a tablet). Then, knowing that they are the future consumers, why should we look at online & offline in a separate way? We need to avoid silo management.  And why is it a must to use digital in your strategy?

Secondly, you start from the channel instead of the objective. Every marketer will agree that the starting point of a campaign is not to choose the channels that will be used to communicate. It starts with the objectives taking into account the core brand values. When the objective is to create a real authentic mac & cheese, you should ask yourself which ingredients you need to get to your result (an authentic mac en cheese). When the objective is to create a campaign that targets a specific audience and creates ROI, you should ask yourself which channels or ‘ingredients’ you need to reach that audience.

Relevance & added value

A channel or a mix of channels should always be relevant and add value. This means that it should be the right channel in order to catch the right target group on the right moment. The channel that fits those conditions is the most relevant for your objectives.

When marketers ask the wrong questions, illogical campaigns will be the result. For example, a QR-code on a bus: there is not only the difficulty that you have to be fast enough to open your QR-reader app before the bus is out of sight, but additionally you have to succeed in scanning a QR-code on a driving bus… Chances are that once you’ve managed to do all these things, you land on a website which isn’t even responsive to your mobile phone.

Clearly, the arrival of digital technology has caused confusion for marketers. It is time to get back to the basics and realize that we can use those digital technologies but only if it is relevant to use them.

Although the QR-code on the bus is definitely a wrong use of channel, it doesn’t mean that the channel ‘QR-code’ is always an inappropriate channel. QR-codes can be very useful if they are relevant and add value. For example, Qustomer is a loyalty program in which one single (mobile) loyalty card can be used in different shops and in different cities. This convenience adds value for the customer.

A lot of companies are thinking about creating an app, but again, this is only a good idea if the app is relevant and creates added value and not if you want to do a campaign. The Brussels Airport app is an example of an app that makes passengers lives easier. The app is connected with Touring Mobilis and tells you when you should leave in current traffic to get at the airport in time. It shows how long you have to wait at security, where the best deals are, where to find the nearest toilet and gives you updates about delays.

Don’t just use digital technology because you are afraid of not following the latest trend. It is very important to ask the right questions and to look for channels that are a good fit with your target group and company strategy.

Good luck with the mac & cheese!